War comics special: Only 21 Param Vir Chakras have been awarded since 1947!
Retired Major General Ian Cardozo's tells Fiona Fernandez why he is hopeful that his tribute to India's Param Vir Chakra heroes in comic book form will help re-ignite the importance of values and love among the country's Generation Next
After our telephonic interview with Retired Major General Ian Cardozo, we couldn’t help but wonder why a graphic novel hadn’t been created about the war veteran and author so far. After all, the 76-year-old was the first awardee of the Sena Medal for Gallantry on a patrol in NEFA in 1960, had fought many battles, and retired in 1993 as Chief of Staff of a Corps in the East, overcoming the handicap of losing a leg in the Battle of Sylhet in Bangladesh, in 1971. Having worked with the Spastics Society of Northern India, he now works for persons with disability as Chairman of the Rehabilitation Council of India and Vice President of the War Wounded Foundation as well.
“Today’s children should understand values, and become better human beings; titles like these will benefit the country, hopefully,” reasons Major General Cardozo. This Colaba boy, and St Xavier’s School and College alumnus, now settled in Delhi, recalls how an earlier book, Param Vir: Our Heroes, written in 2003 was the fuel for the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) series of graphic novels based on India’s 21 PVC awardees. Fresh off the press, the inaugural two titles based on the lives of Manoj Pandey and Major Lt Somnath Sharma, make for engaging reads.
“Back in 2003 during that book launch, a young boy and budding illustrator, Rishi Kumar, had approached me with the suggestion that I should convert these stories into graphic novel format these days, it’s the more sophisticated word for comics,” he chuckles. Besides, Major General Cardozo’s book, currently in its 7th print, was also flooded by letters from parents of PVC awardees, to rewrite this book for children. For the Army man, who grew up on Commando comics, it struck a chord. “India’s future lies in the character of our children; we’ve lost our value system and our ethics; nowadays, everybody seems to be running after material gains.”
In 2008, Rishi reconnected with the Major General and they began working on the series. “Would you believe that only 21 Param Vir Chakras have been awarded since Independence? Four survived their encounters; 1 died later and 3 are alive today,” he narrates. The septuagenarian, whose four-decade tenure would have resonated in these titles, is elated that India’s children will have access to the lives of these men: “Each story has a message that of the importance of character, courage, sacrifice, and above all, love.
While love isn’t typically associated with the services, the love that these men have for India and for its people, is remarkable.” He iterates further, “People can sleep well at night because these men guard us in the most inhospitable conditions in Siachen, the Thar Desert, or the jungles in the North East.” “Working on these comics was exciting because I like talking to children and now, I get to reach out to a wider audience. It has helped me relive my childhood passion,” the nostalgic Major General signs off.
Manoj Pandey & Somnath Sharma, by Major General Ian Cardozo, Rishi Kumar, Roli Books, R99. Available at leading bookstores
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli